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Timeline: The history of Afghanistan

Afghanistan Maps - From the Net

50,000-20,000 BCE -- Archaeological evidence indicates human civilization is beginning to thrive in the area that will become known as Afghanistan.

3000-2000 BCE -- Ancient Afghanistan becomes an important crossroads between Mesopotamia and other eastern and western civilizations, and urban centers begin to emerge.

2000-1500 BCE -- Aryan tribes establish roots in the area.

600 BCE -- Zoroaster introduces a new religion – by some accounts, the first world and first monotheistic religion. According to Zoroastrianism, the God of Light is in a fight with his evil counterpart, and man can choose between good and evil.

500 BCE -- Persian leader Darius the Great extends his empire into modern-day Afghanistan. But Persian leaders, under Darius, Cyprus I and other rulers, face regular bitter and bloody tribal revolts.

329 BCE -- Macedonian-born Alexander the Great conquers Persia and Afghanistan. Greek rule continues in much of the area during the next two centuries, although unrest and revolts are common.

50 AD -- The Kushan empire, and its Buddhist doctrines, begin to establish themselves in the region. By 220 AD, however, the empire devolves into a handful of petty dynasties.

400 -- The "White Huns" invade the region, wiping out much of the Buddhist culture and many urban and town centers.

550 -- After years of relative independence, Persian forces reassert control over the area but continue to face intermittent revolts from native Afghan tribes.

652 -- Arabs introduce the region to Islam, a religion that will eventually become dominant.

962 -- The Islamic era begins with the Ghaznavid Dynasty, founded by Turks and giving rise to Afghanistan’s emerging role politically and culturally in Islamic civilization.

1030 -- The Ghaznavid empire begins to fall apart after the death of Mahmud Ghazni.

1219 -- Ghengis Khan, and his Mongol army, successfully invade Afghanistan in their epic and bloody march westward.

1273 -- Marco Polo crosses northern Afghanistan on his voyage from Italy to China. The area would become a critical, if at times dangerous stop on the "Silk Route" connecting the West to the East.

1370 -- A series of ventures to seize power, competing petty kingdoms and intermittent revolts mark the 14th and 15th centuries.

1504 -- Babur, a founder of India’s Moghul dynasty, takes control of Kabul -- and, in time, much of modern-day Afghanistan. Moghul rule introduces another religion, Hinduism, to the country and sets off more attempted nationalist revolts.

1600s -- On the heels of the nationalist movement the previous century led by Bayazid Roshan, another nationalist-minded revolt -- this one headed by Afghan warrior-poet Khushhal Khan Khattak -- begins against the Moghul government in the late 1600s.

1708 -- Mir Wais, considered by some the father of Afghan independence, successfully takes over Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. His son, Mir Mahmud, invades Persia and liberates Herat. But by 1736, the Persians start to re-establish their grip on the region.

1750s -- Ahmad Shah Durrani begins his rule, consolidating and enlarging Afghanistan while also governing much of India. But peace will be the exception over the next 100 years, as local leaders fend off Persian and Sikh invasions and fight amongst themselves.

1836 -- The British, in corroboration with ex-king Shah Shuja, invade Afghanistan in response to growing Russian and Persian influence in the region. Shuja re-takes the throne in 1839 only to be killed three years later. Afghan forces fight fervently against British forces, and by 1843 the nation reasserts its independence.

1878 -- The British launch their second war against Afghanistan, but withdraw in the face of strong resistance two years later.

1885 -- Russian forces seize territory in northern Afghanistan. The Russians will keep most of the area, but thereafter pledge to respect Afghanistan’s territorial integrity. Eight years later, another boundary agreement -- this one between Afghanistan and British India -- leaves several Afghan tribal areas in what is now Pakistan.

1921 -- A third Anglo-Afghan war breaks out after anti-British forces assassinate the king. But by 1919, the war-weary British relinquish control over Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. The new king, Amanullah, establishes diplomatic relations with several major nations and introduces reforms aimed at modernizing the country. But the moves alienate many tribal and religious leaders and generate political turmoil.

1949 -- Afghanistan’s parliament refuses to recognizes new boundaries drawn by Great Britain establishing an independent Pakistan. In the coming years, Afghanistan will develop close ties with the Soviet Union after the United States refuses to grant military aid.

1973 -- Daoud Khan and the Afghan Communist Party overthrow the ruling Afghan government and long-time king Mohammad Zahir Shah. Daoud, the former king’s cousin, abolishes the monarchy, presents a new constitution, ousts suspected opponents from the government and institutes economic and social reforms.

1978 -- Daoud is killed and his government falls in a bloody Communist-backed coup. Mass killings, arrests and tortures ensue, and the Afghan guerrilla (Mujahidin) movement is born.

1979 -- Anticommunist forces take control, prompting a Soviet invasion. The Soviets lose about 15,000 troops in constant fighting, and withdraw by the late 1980s.

1984 -- The Mujahidin, known by supporters as "freedom fighters," begins receiving military and logistical assistance from the United States and other countries.

1988 -- The Soviet Union and United States sign the Geneva Accords, calling for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of refugees without fear of persecution. But the Mujahidin do not take part in the negotiations, and do not accept it.

1992 -- The Mujahidin takeover Kabul and declare Afghanistan liberated. They form an Islamic state, headed by the Islamic Jihad Council and Prof. Burhannudin Rabbani.

1994 -- The staunchly conservative Taliban militia is born and begins to rise up against Rabbani’s government and its supporters. Over the next several years, the group will become the nation's dominant political force, although by 2001 only three other countries recognized its legitimacy.

The Taleban in 1994 were appointed by Islamabad to protect a convoy trying to open up a trade route between Pakistan and Central Asia.

The group - comprised of Afghans trained in religious schools in Pakistan along with former Islamic fighters or mujahedin - proved effective bodyguards, driving off other mujahedin groups who attacked and looted the convoy.

They went on to take the nearby city of Kandahar, beginning a remarkable advance which led to their capture of the capital, Kabul, in September 1996.

The Taleban's popularity with many Afghans initially surprised the country's warring mujahedin factions.

As ethnic Pashtuns, a large part of their support came from Afghanistan's Pashtun community, disillusioned with existing ethnic Tajik and Uzbek leaders.

But it was not purely a question of ethnicity. Ordinary Afghans, weary of the prevailing lawlessness in many parts of the country, were often delighted by Taleban successes in stamping out corruption, restoring peace and allowing commerce to flourish again.

Their refusal to deal with the existing warlords whose rivalries had caused so much killing and destruction also earned them respect.

The Taleban said their aim was to set up the world's most pure Islamic state, banning frivolities like television, music and cinema.

Their attempts to eradicate crime have been reinforced by the introduction of Islamic law including public executions and amputations.

A flurry of regulations forbidding girls from going to school and women from working quickly brought them into conflict with the international community.

The Taleban controled all but the far north of the country, which is the last stronghold of the ethnic Tajik commander Ahmed Shah Masood.

With 90% of the country under their control, the Taleban have continued to press claims for international recognition.

But the Afghan seat at the United Nations continued to be held by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Sources:, Afghan-Web, Afghansite, U.S. State Department, IDSA and others.